Havelock Mayor Jimmy Sanders sees similarities between himself and mayoral challenger Will Lewis. But he said the main thing that separates them is his 30 extra years of life experiences.
“I think maybe Will is probably where I was when I was 40 years old … a little more fire in his guts, if you know what I mean,” Sanders said.
The 36-year-old Lewis, a two-term city commissioner, is mounting a challenge for the position held by the 66-year-old Sanders since 2005.
“A lot of the stuff I learned, I learned through screwing up,” Sanders said. “I’ve been there and I have learned through screwing up, and Will hasn’t learned through screwing up yet. That’s life, and life experiences are going to make you who you are, and failure is part of it.
“I have 40 years of experience. I have relationships and friendships in Washington, D.C., in Raleigh, in New Bern. I truly believe that those relationships and being known is helpful.”
Sanders said he has relationships with N.C. Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker, and her predecessor, Keith Crisco, and U.S. Reps. Walter Jones and G.K. Butterfield.
“I think that over the years that I have learned a great deal about how to bring people together and form coalitions,” Sanders said. “Often, if not always, confrontation is not successful.”
Lewis said he is offering a fresh approach and would be more aggressive if elected mayor.
“I think that my leadership style is different than the current mayor,” he said. “I think that I will be a little more proactive in dealing with things, in issues that arise. I like to do things a little more based on goals and benchmarks. I like to set benchmarks and priorities and achieve those priorities, which I think is a more proactive method to get things done.”
Lewis used the need for more development in the city as an example.
“You make a plan on what you want and how to get it and then you activate that plan, as opposed to accepting all comers, so I think I’m a little more straight forward about how we’re going to achieve a goal, which is different about my leadership style,” Lewis said. “I also think that while I have grown up here, I don’t really have any ties to a lot of things like the current mayor does. That sometimes does affect the way we can get things done, like old relationships. I don’t mean to say that Jimmy clings to them, but old wounds can take a long time to heal. I don’t really have those.
“I don’t think Jimmy and I have a lot of differences in terms of where Havelock needs to be. I think that I tend to be a little more progressive about things I’d like to see change in Havelock and about how fast I’d like to see change.”
Lewis said he is a big advocate of the use of online social media to reach a section of the city population that would otherwise be left out.
“They want things fast. They don’t want it slow. And they don’t want to come to meetings. They want to get it on Twitter,” Lewis said.
Sanders said his biggest concern about Havelock is instability in Washington and Congress’ inability to fund the military and repairs of equipment.
“Those things are frustrating but they are opportunities,” Sanders said. “We just need to remember that in 2005, when we had the last BRAC, Havelock was in no position to accept people to do a new mission at Cherry Point. We had hundreds of gallons of sewerage and we needed hundreds of thousands of gallons. We dodged that bullet, and Cherry Point came away with only minimal damage, but today is a new day. We’re ready. We’ve got the sewer capacity. We’re got the water capacity. We’ve got the infrastructure that would be needed to accept new missions at Cherry Point. I believe that ultimately Cherry Point is going to be a winner. Cherry Point is the crown jewel of the Navy and the Marine Corps on the East Coast, period.”
Sanders said the need for military spousal employment “is something that has dogged us for some time,” but said the board was working on plans for a new business park on the city’s west end that would have access to the railroad, U.S. 70 and the port at Morehead City.
“I believe that you are going to see some great things happen in Havelock in a relatively short period of time,” Sanders said. “You’ve got to work as hard as you can to protect Cherry Point and FRC while you diversify. You can’t take your eye off the goose that’s laying the golden egg. You cannot slack up on that for one second.”
Lewis said the base is his first and foremost concern.
“We are all very cognizant of the reality of what that is as an economic incentive and asset for us as well as for defense, so one of my huge concerns is the future of that base with the extreme unrest at the federal level and with an ensuing BRAC over the next year or two that we know will happen at some point, sequestration, which has already affected us with furloughs and then we have no idea how they are going to handle furloughs next year,” he said. “We can’t get a budget passed. That list goes on and on.
“For me, what we can do to preserve the future of Cherry Point, everything we look at needs to be about the future, not the past. You’re not going to save it with an old mission. All you’re going to do is just prolong the death, basically. If you can keep your eyes open and focus on future missions, like the unmanned aerial systems, that’s the future of a lot of technology within the military.”
Lewis said he would like to preserve the F-35 schedule and work to get the jet squadrons as quickly as possible.
“That’s important. That’s how we’re going to save the base,” he said. “We’re not going to save it by holding on to a legacy airplane.”
Lewis said he is concerned about the possible loss of 3,500 civilian jobs at FRC East.
“I know everybody’s concerned, Carteret County, Craven County, New Bern. They’re all concerned,” he said. “It will affect everybody in the whole region, but it will decimate Havelock. This is our neighbor. We’re attached like Siamese twins to Cherry Point. We’ can’t let that base get away.”
Lewis said he also is in support of building a new business park, and he is also in favor of development of a Havelock-centered strategic plan for economic development.
Sanders said the strength of Havelock is its quality people.
“We are unique in Eastern North Carolina,” he said. “There is no other community that is as friendly and welcoming and as diverse. The relationship between us on the civilian side of the fence and the military is an absolute blend. We live together. We go to church together. We play together. We go to school together. For Cherry Point, it is necessary for them to have a visible barrier, but other than that, the rest of the community here is interlocked.
“I think that is our asset. It’s who we are, the talents and diversity that we bring, and we are well on our way to having the infrastructure to support it.”
Lewis said Havelock was moving forward.
“One strength that we have is the staff that we have at city hall and amongst all of the departments,” he said. “I think the city of Havelock is viewed across the state more progressively than we get credit for and a lot of that comes from our board pushing agendas that are outside of what other groups do, but also we have a staff that can make it happen and that is willing to innovate and think in ways that put us on the map.
“I think fiscally we’re strong, which is a strength. We’re building our infrastructure in a way that will be a specific strength for Havelock. I often think that our diversity in Havelock is a strength. That difference in perspective is sometimes why we are a progressive town.”
Early voting begins today and runs through Nov. 2 at the Craven County Board of Elections in New Bern. Election Day is Nov. 5.
For more voter information, call the Craven County Board of Elections at 636-6610 or go online to www.cravencounty.com/departments/elc.cfm.
Meet the Candidates
Career/personal:Spent 7 1/2 years in Air Force, worked as an aviation electronics technician, worked at Cherry Point
Civic:Past volunteer at Havelock Fire and Rescue, member of Cherry Point United Methodist Church since 1955, former Jaycees member, past Little League and Babe Ruth coach, manager and president, past president of the Craven County Firemen’s Association
Offices/boards:Former city commissioner and current mayor, served on N.C. Tourist Development Authority, served on N.C. Fire Commission, served on Legislative Action Committee for N.C. League of Municipalities, ex-officio officer of N.C. Military Affairs Commission, president of Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow.
Career/personal:Grew up in Havelock, served as page in office of N.C. Sen. Beverly Perdue in Raleigh, earned B.A. degree in history at North Carolina State University, describes himself as entrepreneur, has contractor’s license.
Civic:Coached youth basketball for five years, member of First United Methodist Church
Offices/boards:Current city commissioner, mayor pro tem, Havelock Library Board, Eastern Carolina Aviation Heritage Foundation. Solid waste ad hoc committee, EPA Brownsfield committee